Oodua – Rise and Shine! – Speech to the Conference of Leaders of the Yoruba Nation – by Prof. Banji Akintoye

1 Comment » May 3rd, 2013 posted by // Categories: Yoruba Affairs



 

 

Prophet Awo, The Architect of Modern Yorubaland.

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SPEECH TO THE CONFERENCE OF LEADERS OF

THE YORUBA NATION…….

APRIL 26, 2013
By Prof. Banji Akintoye

Distinguished Leaders of the Yoruba Nation, Elected Governors of the Yoruba People,Traditional Rulers and Fathers of the Yoruba People and their Representatives,Yoruba leaders in various Nigerian political parties, Leaders and Officers of various Civic Organizations of the Yoruba People at Home and Abroad, Friends, Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a great honor for me to join my voice to that of the President of Egbe Omo Yoruba, the umbrella organization of all of us Yoruba residents in the United States and Canada, and that of the Chairman of Oodua Foundation, to welcome you all to this historic conference. Before I go any further, I humbly thank and congratulate General Alani Akinrinade and the many men and women who worked with him to organize the Yoruba Assembly which was held in Ibadan in August 2012.

As Patron of Oodua Foundation, the organizers of this conference, I am aware that the decision of the venue for this conference – the decision to hold it abroad rather than at home in Nigeria – was very deliberately and carefully taken. After years of intensively studying the experiences and conditions of the Yoruba Nation in the deteriorating Nigerian situation, Oodua Foundation came to the conclusion that drawing our leaders out of their homes and bringing them far across the seas would communicate the kind of urgency that the Yoruba situation demands today.

We know the inconveniences of preparations for such a long journey as this – the inconveniences of the steps needed to obtain visas and to arrange flights, the uncertainties of the choice of clothing in view of the differences in climate, and the inevitable discomfort of jetlag. We also know that the expenses involved are considerable. It is therefore with great pride and gratitude that we welcome so many of our leaders to this conference. This is a big confirmation of the well-known fact about the Yoruba Nation – namely, that whenever the Yoruba need to stand up for their nation, they are never found wanting.

Moreover, our reports from home have it that enthusiasm and expectations for this conference are quite high among those of our leaders who were contacted, including many who are not able to come. Consequently, we have good reasons to hope that those of us who are able to gather here today will make this a signally successful conference – a conference with a very major effect on the future and prospects of our nation, the Yoruba Nation.

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MKO,The Hero of Democracy in Nigeria.

The responsibilities of today’s leaders of the Yoruba Nation are truly heavy. The Yoruba Nation that we were born into, and that we are called to guide, is one of the most important nationalities on the African continent. At 40 million in population, we are one of the three largest nationalities in Nigeria and in Black Africa. In population, we are about 24% of the population of Nigeria, a country of about 300 nationalities, with a total population of 165 million. But our importance in Nigeria does not end with our population weight. We stand in the forefront of Nigeria, and even of Africa, in educational development and literacy.

According to some unofficial estimates, we Yoruba, though only 24% of Nigeria’s population, account for about 52% of all Nigerians who hold university degrees. Ours are the strongest professional class and middle class on the continent. Already a country of many large walled towns as early as the 16th century, the country of the Yoruba Nation has always been the most urbanized country in tropical Africa. As a result of this urban civilization, when Christian evangelism and Western education came to tropical Africa in the 19th century, both quickly recorded their fastest growth in Yorubaland among the countries of tropical Africa. By the 1860s, many Yoruba parents were already sending their children for higher education in Europe. By the 1870s, a considerable literate professional class had emerged – of doctors, lawyers, engineers, surveyors, journalists, etc. No other people in what later became British-ruled Nigeria produced a university graduate until the middle of the 1930s. The earliest newspaper was published in a Yoruba town in 1859, and many soon followed in other Yoruba towns. By the 1950s, we became the first people in Africa to establish a Free Primary Education Program.

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In comparison with the countries of the modern world, the Yoruba Nation in Nigeria is, in population, bigger than many of the richest and most influential countries of the Western world – a little bigger than Canada, about as big as Spain or Poland, about four times as big as Portugal or Sweden. Of the fifty-four countries of the continent of Africa (besides Nigeria), Yoruba population in Nigeria is smaller than those of only three countries – Egypt, Ethiopia, and Congo (Kinshasa), about as large as the population of the Union of South Africa, and bigger than the population of every one of the remaining fifty countries.

In land area too, Yorubaland in Nigeria is, in comparison with the countries of today’s world, quite a large country. At about 105,000 square miles (168 square kilometers), it is a little bigger than the size of the United Kingdom, over nine times the size of Belgium, over three times the size of Austria, over six times the size of Holland, and about three times the size of Portugal.

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But we Yoruba are not a people of only Nigeria, or even of only Africa. The colonial boundaries of the late 19th century consigned parts of the Yoruba Nation to French and German colonies, with the result that we Yoruba now constitute sizeable parts of the countries of Benin Republic and Togo Republic. Beyond Africa,the strong cultural influence of the Yoruba people in the African diaspora of the Atlantic Slave Trade era has left a strong Yoruba cultural identity in many countries of the New World – especially in countries like Brazil, Cuba, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Jamaica, Grenada, Barbados, St. Kitts, St. Vincent, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, Bahamas, Suriname, the United States, etc. Probably more than any other people of Black Africa, we Yoruba people in homeland Yorubaland in West Africa consciously identify with the Black peoples of these American countries, with the result that some in the Yoruba elite now commonly claim that the population of people of Yoruba descent in the world is over 100 million. In fact, the idea of a trans-Atlantic “Yoruba Nation” arose in the Americas in the course of the late 19thcentury, and has grown steadily since then.

Also, in the decades since the independence of Nigeria in 1960, conditions in that country have resulted in the emigration of an ever swelling stream of educated Yoruba people to various parts of the world.

An estimated 1.5 million of these emigrants have made the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and several countries of continental Europe their homes. In each country to which they have gone, they constitute a highly educated immigrant citizenry, occupying significant positions in governments, as well as high levels in academia and scientific research, and in the professions. A University of Pennsylvania website writes that “The Yoruba people from Nigeria, West Africa, are among the most traveled peoples on this planet. Their language and blood type show up almost everywhere”.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, the Yoruba Nation has consistently belonged in the frontline of modernization on the African continent – in education, scholarship, literature, art, commerce, industries, entertainments, etc.Some gems of indigenous Yoruba thought and philosophy have been classified by UNESCO as significant parts of the “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”. Yorubaland of the 20th century has made impressive contributions to scholarship in the sciences, the humanities and the arts, and produced the first African recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature. This is the home of Black Africa’s most famous art traditions, of Black Africa’s greatest naturalistic sculptures in terra cotta, brass and bronze.

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Thus, we of this generation of Yoruba people have a great heritage to preserve and enhance, and a great dream and promise to fulfill. As we gather and confer here today and tomorrow, these thoughts should weigh heavily on our minds. They should motivate us to the most constructive emotions and utterances, the most brotherly contacts, conduct and deliberations, the most exalted decisions concerning the life and prospects of our nation, and the most sublime resolve by each of us to serve our nation hereafter at a level of dedication, loyalty and transparency higher than we have ever given.

But, at this point, I need to hurry to say the following. We who planned this conference did not do so from a spirit of criticism of our leaders who are engaged in the various aspects of leading our nation at home. We did not plan this conference from any feeling that we are better able to discern the problems of our nation. We do not underrate the efforts and achievements of our State governments. In fact, we acknowledge with great pride and gratitude the bold and courageous efforts and achievements of each of our State governors in all aspects of the socio-economic development and revival of our states – of Governor Raji Fasola in Lagos state; of Governor Raufu Aregbesola in Osun State; of Governor Kayode Fayemi in Ekiti State; of Governor Segun Mimiko in Ondo State; of Governor Kunle Amosun in Ogun State; and of Governor Abiola Ajimobi in Oyo State. We are proud and grateful that our six governors uphold a high standard of governance and make government responsive to the desires of the governed, in a country in which that true spirit of governance has largely been destroyed.

 

 

Apart from our state governments, we are also proud of, and grateful to, many civic organizations established by Yoruba leaders for different kinds of service to our nation. We are proud of and grateful to those of our men who created, led and served in Odua Peoples Congress. We are proud of and grateful to our elder statesmen in Afenifere. We are proud of and grateful to our leaders in Afenifere Renewal Group who founded the Yoruba Academy and are serving in it, and who honored our nation with the very thoughtful DAWN Document about a year ago. We are proud of, and grateful to, our leaders in Atayese and the organizations in the umbrella group collectively known as ACROS who have been fervently pursuing the quest for Yoruba self-determination, as well as the quest for the rational restructuring of the Nigerian federation. We are proud of, and grateful to,our leaders in the Yoruba Unity Front who have continually striven to get some fairness for the Yoruba Nation in the composition of the present federal government of Nigeria.

We are proud of, and grateful to, the many groups operating under the umbrella of the Coalition of Odua Self Determination Groups, consisting of many organizations and a total of over 50,000 members. And we are proud of, and grateful to, the founders of Awolowo Foundation and Awolowo Institute, and for the work that both are doing.
As part of our Oodua Foundation researches, we have complied a very long list of Yoruba organizations – some dedicated to Yoruba self-reliance, some to Yoruba self-determination, some to mutual help among their members, etc.
The Yoruba Nation is grateful to every one of these dozens of organizations.

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Governor Amosun of Ogun State

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Governor Aregbesola of Osun State.

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The Alafin of Oyo

The sterling services of our state governments even in the conditions of today’s Nigeria, and the springing up of so many civic organizations among us, all prove three things about the Yoruba people today. First, we Yoruba people passionately love our nation and our national culture, are very proud of our nation’s achievements throughout history, and are very desirous of preserving our nation’s character. Secondly, we are worried about the present circumstances and conditions of our nation. And thirdly, very many of us are eager to make our contributions to the improvement of the conditions and circumstances of our nation. These precisely are the sources of the motivation and the marching orders for this conference.

So then, we need to appreciate what this conference is not about. It is not about our membership of Nigeria. It is not even about the ever-beaten subject of Nigeria’s destructive management of its affairs, or about Nigeria’s decline, or about the widespread and frightening prognosis about Nigeria’s future. If we stayed in this room until doomsday criticizing the mode of Nigeria’s governance, lamenting Nigeria’s relentless decline into poverty and insecurity, and Nigeria’s determined pursuit of disaster, our nation’s suffering will not improve one jot; it will only continue to grow worse and worse.

That is not to say that we are not, or should not be, concerned with the situation of Nigeria. Of course we are concerned. We have always contributed the most to efforts to redirect Nigeria onto paths of rational federal structure, order, law, and prosperity, and we shall never cease doing so.

The point is that in these two days, far away from home, we are going to focus as exclusively as possible on the ailments besetting our Yoruba Nation in the context of Nigeria, and on precise and effectual efforts to find solutions – so that our nation may revive and strongly resume progress towards prosperity and confidence.

This conference is therefore, as much as possible,solely and exclusively about the Yoruba nation – about how the Yoruba nation will survive, revive, thrive and prosper, even in Nigeria, even in spite of the conditions in which we live in Nigeria. Far too many Nigerian peoples think that Nigeria necessarily determines their fortunes and their destiny, but that is not really true. It is particularly untrue about large nations like the Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa-Fulani, each of which is a substantial and capable country on its own. It is even untrue about many of Nigeria’s smaller nations. If any of the nations of Nigeria decides, straps on its harness and tightens its belt, and takes its own life competently into its hands, it can thrive and prosper in its own way, even in Nigeria.

Among the constructive things said in recent times by those Nigerians who desire to see Nigeria proper, one of the wisest is what our Wole Soyinka said some months ago – namely that each section of Nigeria should take its life in hand and face its own affairs. Of course, a nation that seriously takes its life in its hand in Nigeria will experience distractions, obstructions, and disruptions; but if that nation is determinedly united and focused, it will manage to ride over all these and go on to prosper. We the Yoruba Nation need now to take stock, learn to benefit from our experiences in Nigeria since 1960, unite, tighten our belt, and strike out resolutely to revamp and revive our development capabilities, resume the development momentum which we lost in 1962-66, and march boldly forward to our destiny as a prosperous nation – even in the context of Nigeria.

We did it before. We can do it again.

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A Coherent National Leadership: To do it, we need, first and foremost, a coherent national leadership structure that we are all committed to accepting and respecting, even without abandoning our various political directions.In the prevailing circumstances of Nigeria, each nation needs to protect its interests by evolving some sort of leadership structure that is able to stand up for its nation.Various Nigerian nations are now seeing the need for that kind of leadership; one nation already has it – and some others are gradually advancing towards evolving it.

A whole lot of things are in a state of flux in Nigeria, and are seriously affecting the lives of various Nigerian nationalities in various painful ways. And there are no dependable federal provisions,or federal inclination, to restrain any nations that may indulge in excesses against other nations, or to protect nations that are being hurt or abused. Each nation therefore must protect itself and its vital interests.

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Wole Soyinka
First African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

A nation that neglects to do that is sure to lose much in the Nigerian situation. Already, the Yoruba Nation has lost, and is losing, a lot. Apart from our considerable share in the confusion, poverty, and insecurity of Nigeria, we are today confronted by certain problems that have arisen uniquely for us in the Nigerian situation. For instance, because we place a great emphasis on educating our children, the rampant unemployment in Nigeria hits our educated youths in a more devastating way than it hits the youths of any other part of Nigeria.

Equally importantly, because we have succeeded in making our Yoruba homeland in the Nigerian Southwest the safest and most hospitable region of Nigeria, the most free of religious and ethnic hostilities, and the most suitable and profitable for business, increasing numbers of people are flooding from other seriously deprived parts of Nigeria to take refuge in the Yoruba homeland. From our perspective as a people, the coming of these refugees and immigrants is welcome. Our receiving and welcoming them is harmonious with our culture, traditions and history. The problem (and a mighty problem) is that these refugees as they come these days, cannot see a clear and respectable Yoruba leadership, different from, and standing beyond, the leaderships of political parties.

 

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Governor Ajimobi of Oyo State

Consequently, some of these refugees often feel (and sometimes even say) that they are coming, as of right, into a ‘no-man’s land’, and that they are free to behave as they choose in our homeland. For instance, the sale, purchase and transfer of real-estate property go on in total chaos. We see refugees creating markets wherever they like in the streets of our towns.

We see refugees sometimes creating markets from which traders of other ethnic groups, including even Yoruba traders, are barred. And we see refugees pushing traders that do not belong to their own particular ethnicity out of some of our old markets. We even see some attempting forcibly to create trading monopolies for themselves in certain commodities and in certain communities.
We need to repeat that we welcome other peoples who are coming to our homeland and doing business there.

 

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Ogun State on the move!

We are historically the leading urban civilization in Black Africa, and that has for centuries disposed us to welcome foreigners to our land, to include those deserving among them into important positions in our communities, to offer the protection of our kings’ governments to the vulnerable and needy among them, and to ensure, under our native laws, that every one of them could work and do business as they chose. We the Yoruba nation are determined to preserve our cultural character, and to continue to lead as a land of openness, hospitality, harmony and prosperity.

Therefore,we need to ensure that the influx of people into our homeland is orderly, and that no negative structures or traditions will be nurtured now by any immigrant group that can threaten the quality of harmonious life, or lead to conflicts and disorder, in our homeland. Obviously, we are today witnessing only the infancy of a development whereby our traditional openness and accommodation of strangers is turning our Yorubaland into the most desirable place in tropical Africa for the most ambitious and most achieving people, not only from Nigeria, but also from West Africa, from other regions of Africa, and from farther corners of the earth.

 

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The Martyr of Civil Liberty, Murdered by the Fulani Military Authority.

We need to ensure very seriously that this development is orderly and harmonious from this beginning, in the interest of all concerned – in the interest of our own people, and in the interest of all who are now coming to our homeland to make new homes.It is extremely dangerous for us to allow the present incoming people to feel that they are coming into a no-man’s land, and that they are free to establish their own exclusive tribal enclaves which they want to defend against all others.It is dangerous to let cattle herders from other parts of Nigeria enter and seize territory as they wish in the northern grasslands of our homeland – sometimes doing so by attempting to kill off the indigenous Yoruba farming populations in such places.

It is dangerous that our state governments should appear to have no land acquisition policy, as well as no policy of preserving some choice lands for ourselves and our offspring. A nation that allows itself to be thus freely trampled under by others risks losing its sense of self-respect and pride – and a lot more.It also risks seeing its homeland gradually degenerate into a land of lawlessness, disorder, and tribal conflicts. We, the Yoruba Nation, bear a big burden in this matter, a burden that no other nation in Nigeria is yet bearing today. And we need to stand up and make a shining success of it. Such a success may become a lesson that nations of tropical Africa will benefit from.

 

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General Olusegun Obasanjo, one of the Heroes of Nigeria’s Civil War. First Military Head of Government to peacefully handover power to a Civilian Government In Africa.

Need for Yoruba Leadership and Voice in the Nigerian Situation
The other reason why we need a coherent and generally accepted and respected leadership structure is that we need to have such a leadership to speak out for us in the evolving debate over the Nigeria situation. We the Yoruba Nation need to recognize that both our Yoruba Nation and Nigeria are being seriously hurt by the fact that the Yoruba Nation has neglected to evolve a coherent Yoruba position on the worsening Nigerian situation.

More and more informed people in the world, including the United States CIA, various voices in the international community, many scholars, journalists and writers, are saying that Nigeria is close to breaking up, or perhaps even close to imploding, and we Nigerians seem incapable of rousing ourselves to do something significant about it. No doubt, there are high-ranking Nigerian citizens who are simply falling back on the thought that some section of Nigeria will somehow manage to keep Nigeria together by the use of military force.

Indeed, some leading Nigerians have said just that in various ways. People who allow themselves to think like that usually point back to the experience of Biafran secession attempt and the civil war that followed upon it. But no person worthy to be called a leader of any country should simply attach all his hope for his country on such incompetent thinking. None of us Nigerians needs to be told that though military force stopped Biafra’s separation bid, Biafra is still very much alive in spirit today and seeking various ways to assert its identity.

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Powerful and bitter divisions under a thin veneer of oneness is not the kind of unity that Nigeria should seek. Military force, no matter how immediately successful it may be against a given threat to Nigeria’s existence, can never be a sufficient means of preserving Nigeria and keeping Nigeria together in reasonable harmony. At some stage or other, if Nigeria is to remain one, we Nigerians will have to find some compromise that we can all fairly stably live with. And the position of the Yoruba Nation is that all of us Nigerians, working at it sincerely together, can find and establish such a compromise.

Unfortunately, however, we Nigerians are not even remotely close to any beginning of steps towards the making of such a compromise. To start initiating such steps, it is imperative that we Nigerians should have the clearly stated positions of most nations of the Nigerian family on the jangled and perplexing problems of Nigeria, and that we should accord due respect and deference to such positions.

Only the Hausa-Fulani have an indisputably mandated position, in the hands of a coherent and indisputably mandated leadership structure. Their Arewa Consultative Forum is now performing the laudable service of making contact with any leadership entities that they can find among other Nigerian nations, and actively canvassing the Hausa-Fulani position; and Hausa-Fulani governors, as well as Hausa-Fulani members of the National Assembly, are all backing that position. Meanwhile, no other Nigerian nation has risen to the level of being able to do the same. The rest of Nigeria must change this. In particular, the larger nations like the Yoruba and Igbo must lead the way in this, and do so expeditiously.

 

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As we have said earlier in this speech, we the Yoruba Nation are not just one of the three largest nationalities of Nigeria; we also manifestly lead Nigeria in many areas of development and modernization. Therefore, we bear a big historic responsibility in the task of helping Nigeria through its current tangled difficulties. Failure to resolve these difficulties can obviously lead to Nigeria’s disintegration – or, perhaps even to its cataclysmic implosion. If Nigeria resolves its current situation in ways that, at last, give Nigeria a chance to exist in order and reasonable harmony, Nigeria can thrive and become a land of peace and prosperity, and a dependable contributor to peace and prosperity on the African continent, and in the wider world.

From the hundreds of public statements emanating from time to time from the Yoruba political, intellectual and professional elite, and from the statements that have emanated from generations of the Yoruba elite since the debate over the structure of Nigeria began in 1946, the position of the Yoruba nation is easily discernible. What we Yoruba seek is a well ordered federal structure for Nigeria, a structure based on careful respect for every nation in Nigeria, and allowing each nation, as much as possible, to manage much of its own unique affairs and concerns in its own way and at its own pace, to control an agreed amount of its own resources, and to exploit its capabilities to success – so that each nation will thus be able to make its own kind of contribution to the general prosperity of Nigeria. A senior Yoruba professor in an American university put the Yoruba position simply as follows:

‘The simple answer to the question “what do the Yoruba want?” is this: The Yoruba want a Nigerian State which respects its multinational character and gives adequate recognition to the inviolability of its federating nationalities, no matter how small or big, a Nigerian State that promotes equal justice for all its citizens and makes a sacred commitment to the secularity of its character. The Yoruba have always wanted a Nigeria that practices and is committed to the principles of true federalism.’

 

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Chief HID, Yeye Oba Ile-Ife.

This Yoruba position offers Nigeria the chance to survive its current travail, and to live on and prosper. Because we Yoruba people are constantly putting forth our views for change in Nigeria and for the progress and prosperity of Nigeria, some other Nigerians have made it a habit to accuse us routinely of planning to secede from Nigeria. Of course, there is no need for us to deny that, like most other nationalities in Nigeria, we believe that a separate country of our own would be the best status for our nation in the world.

 

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Governor Fashola of Lagos.

However, as member of the Nigerian state, we take Nigeria seriously. We strongly desire to be part of an orderly, law-abiding, successful, prosperous and, hopefully, powerful Nigeria. We believe that a successful and prosperous Nigeria has a lot to give to progress, peace and security on the African continent and even in the wider world.

These are the reasons why we constantly come forth, and why we will never cease coming forth, with our sincere opinions and proposals for change for the better in Nigeria.

In the situation that Nigeria has now reached, we Yoruba are certain to be much more effective, and to benefit Nigeria and ourselves much better, if we create a Yoruba national leadership structure to push our views on the way forward for Nigeria, and not continue to leave the promotion of the Yoruba position only to scattered occasional pronouncements by our politicians and intellectuals. It is time we have a Yoruba leadership to work with the leaderships of other Nigerian nations for the worthy cause of saving and preserving Nigeria in order and hope. It is no longer appropriate for the Yoruba people to appear scattered and uncoordinated, even while manifestly expressing basically the same position. Like at least one other nation that is already speaking through a clearly mandated leadership, we Yoruba need now, urgently, to establish our own nationally mandated leadership for this purpose.

The Yoruba men and women who lead us in the various political parties, and the men and women who control the governments of our six states, lose nothing, but can gain a lot, by doing what virtually all Yoruba people ask of them – namely to help give us a coherent leadership, and a clear Yoruba voice, in the current Nigerian situation. By doing it, they will establish a solid home-based strength for themselves. A whole lot of Yoruba people living abroad will also be able to breathe a big sigh of relief that our nation is being adequately protected at home; and this will result in dependable support all over the world for what our leaders are doing at home. As things stand today, Yoruba people at home and abroad are waiting and hoping, wondering whether their leaders will rise to the challenges of today in Nigeria.

We Yoruba people are not demanding that our leading citizens should all band together in one political party or group. We know ourselves too well to propose such a thing. We know that we are a very democratic people, and that we love freedom of choice. What we desire in this matter of the Nigerian situation are twofold – first, a simple statement of Yoruba position such that most of us Yoruba people can associate with; and second, a leadership structure that exercises our national mandate to proclaim the Yoruba position and to employ it to work with comparable leaderships of other Nigerian nationalities.

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Eyo Festival in Eko Ile.

Substantially Reviving Yoruba Share in Yorubaland’s Economy
We Yoruba people need very seriously and urgently to revive our share in the economy of our homeland.
I am sure that I do not need to take much time explaining what the problem is here.
The fact that other peoples coming into our homeland hold most of the commercial sector of the economy of our homeland today is a reality that those of us who live at home in Nigeria see everyday of our lives. It is also something that we who live abroad hear or read about every day. From our great metropolitan city of Lagos to the remotest towns of our homeland, the story is the same. And a major consequence of this is that unemployment and aimless wandering are becoming a part of the way of life of too large a number of our own people, especially of our educated youths. An even more profound possible consequence is that we Yoruba risk becoming poor second-rate citizens in our own homeland.

There is absolutely no reason to exaggerate anything at this conference. Our purpose is to take sober and solid steps to move our nation forward. There is no need or desire to be negative about any of the refugees and immigrants who are coming to live and do business in our land. Any such negative feelings would be against our culture, and even against our nature, as a people. In our culture and worldview, every enterprise, every enterprising person, deserves to be supported and assisted to grow and to prosper – so that society may grow and prosper. That is what we have done throughout our history, and we are happy to do it.

But it is very important that we Yoruba should systematically respond now to other obvious facts of our history and culture.
We are, economically, a very competent and achieving people, much more accomplished than many others. In the forestlands below the Upper and Middle Niger, we Yoruba were the greatest and most accomplished farmers, traders, artists, and craftsmen centuries before the 19th. European traders along the coasts of West Africa as early as the 16th century recorded that we were the major part of trade in every country to our west all the way to the banks of the Senegal River and beyond, and that in most marketplaces in those lands, the Yoruba language was the language of trade.

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Governor Fashola of Lagos State

Besides those lands, our traders traded deep into the land of the Hausa nation to our north, as far as the Kanuri country on the Lake Chad, and even as far as the country now known as Sudan and South Sudan. The first European foreigners to penetrate into our homeland in the 1820s were astounded to see so many bands or caravans of our traders on the move at all hours of day and night all over our homeland. They were also surprised to see the large marketplaces in our towns and cities, some of which marketplaces specialized in night-time trading. In one of our largest cities, they counted seven large marketplaces and a few other smaller ones.

Later, in our new and bubbling city of Ibadan by the 1850s, European missionaries counted even a greater number of large marketplaces.
One of those missionaries wrote that a caravan of our traders that he traveled with near Ibadan in 1854 consisted of more than 4000 traders. Another missionary, an American named William Clarke, has left us even greater details. He wrote that all over Yorubaland,“The trade in native produce and art keeps up continual intercommunication between the several adjacent towns, the one interchanging its abundance of one article for that of another. Thus on those small routes(from town to town) may be seen caravanspassing almost daily from one town to another, acting as the great reservoirs of trade. (On the longer routes across the country) a network of trade is carried to a distance of hundreds of miles, and with perseverance and energy – – -. Hundreds and thousands of people are thus engaged in the carrying trade – – . Not infrequently the articles from the Mediterranean and Western (European) coasts may be seen in close proximity (in the markets in the towns), (as well as) products of the four quarters of the globe. In (some situations), when several caravans are thrown together, a correct idea of the extent of trade may be found in the imposing numbers (of traders and porters) that stretch over several miles in length”.

Why am I going into these details? I am doing so because I want to remind us, the leaders of the Yoruba Nation, that, historically, our nation is an economically powerful nation. We are a nation of great crafts, manufactures, commerce, agriculture, and art. We developed the highly productive farming that supplied food to our urban civilization, the greatest urban civilization in tropical Africa. Our various metal products, cloths, dyestuff, beads, processed food, cosmetic products, etc, were taken by our traders to distant corners of tropical Africa. In short, we have a solid and strong cultural foundation upon which we should by now have built a great modern economy.

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Late Uncle Bola Ige….murdered by PDP’s CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE

The big question, then, is: Why have we not done it? Why have we failed to do it? The answer is that we were shoved into slipping, into skidding, at a critical time in our recent history. Let me explain. In 1952, when the British allowed our indigenous leaders to begin to manage the affairs of our Western Region, our frontline leaders under the leadership of our father, Obafemi Awolowo, set out roughly three phases for our development. The first was to entice all Yoruba parents to send their school-age children to school. That was achieved in 1954-5 through Free Primary Education.

The second phase was to ensure that by the time the Primary School crowd began to graduate from sixth grade, there would be adequate numbers of all sorts of secondary schools to absorb those who desired secondary education. To achieve this, our Regional Government embarked massively on encouraging and assisting our communities and districts, and religious bodies and other voluntary agencies, and private citizens, to build all sorts of secondary schools and “modern” schools.The Regional Government then started in about 1958 to plan a Regional university. This was considered so important that the committee set up to plan the university was chaired by Chief Awolowo himself. The university finally started in 1962.

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And the third phase was then to follow.
Concerning this third phase, please allow me to quote the words of Chief Awolowo himself. These are words which he said to some of us his children in 1978, when we were busy planning the Unity Party of Nigeria. Here is what he said about phase three:

“As we were working on phase two, we knew that phase three of the race was going to be the most difficult of all. This third phase was to consist of assisting the bubbling energy of our increasingly educated society to find expression – that is to guide and help them to build a rich modern economy. This would involve programs for modern job and skills training, entrepreneurial training, various types of programs to help the growth of small-scale and medium sized enterprises (like business-starter encouragement and assistance programs, well-managed micro-credit programs, some guarantees for certain business loans, creation of business incubation establishments, laws and incentives to encourage inventions, encouragement of business associations, etc).

Similar programs would also be needed to help the growth of a modern agricultural economy (like new farmer programs, conversion of our small farm villages to kibbutz-like farm ventures, various programs for helping and boosting private ventures in crop storage and crop processing, subsides to some sectors of agriculture and for certain types of farming equipment, rural development programs that would fund the building and maintenance of rural roads, rural small-scale water supply programs, etc)”.

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But in 1962, unfortunately, our Region was hit by a devastating assault, engineered by the controllers of the Nigerian federal establishment. You all know what I am talking about. Our Region was considered too independent-minded and too confident, and so a plot was embarked upon to pull us down. That contrived crisis in our Western Region in 1962-66 destroyed the planning energy and capability of our Regional government. It diverted most of our educated youths away from economic concerns into radical politics, the politics of resistance – sometimes including violent resistance. It destroyed our self confidence in our ability to achieve and prosper.It destroyed the third phase of our development planning and plunged us into a life of uncertainties and deepening poverty.

In the decades that followed, mostly under military regimes that were generally hostile to our self-confidence, our retrogression intensified. We still continue today to lead in investments in education, but the quality of our education has been devastated. Our hold on our own economy has been sharply weakened. It is widely estimated that over 75% of literate Nigerians aged 18 to 28 are unemployed; and that in the Yoruba Southwest the percentage is much higher than the Nigerian average.

Because our Western Region was the pace-setter Region in the Nigerian federation, the crisis in our Region quickly spread all over Nigeria. Among other Nigerian peoples whose homelands have also been devastated by various phases of the continuing crisis, the more ambitious citizens are today abandoning their homelands and pouring into our homeland – and seizing significant parts of our economy. In the process, we look as if we are economically incompetent – as if we are incapable of starting businesses and engaging in commerce.

Some of the immigrants even enjoy saying that we have no economic or business abilities, and that they are in the process of taking over our homeland.Of course, we know that it is only a few of the immigrants and refugees that usually lapse into such follies; the majority usually do their businesses smoothly and eschew the rabid inter-ethnic hostility common to much of Nigeria’s life. And as a civilized people, we Yoruba are easily able to tolerate the folly of a thoughtless few. Still, it remains true that in terms of modern business development, we are very far from where we ought to be at this point in our modern history. This is a mighty challenge for our nation.

And it is amajor concern of this conference. Today’s leadership of the Yoruba Nation must return in a clear and focused manner to the mode of thinking of the Yoruba leadership of the last years of the 1950s, and our states must help generate a modern business atmosphere and culture.Nothing else is as important as that today.

 

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ODUA NATION….

Conclusion
As should be obvious by now, this conference is not For a generalized discussion of our nation’s many problems. Its purpose is to take concrete decisions, evolve concrete strategies, and thus start our nation off – over two main issues:

 

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Oba Of Lagos and Britain’s Queen.

1. How to establish a properly mandated Yoruba leadership structure to:

a. Watch over the welfare of Yorubaland with regards to issues relating to refugees and immigrants, and suggest policies and actions to the governments of our states over it;

b. Promote the Yoruba position, and work with similar leaderships of other Nigerian nationalities, concerning the Nigerian situation.

2. Specifically, how to stimulate a modern economic and business culture among our educated citizenry. (Japan was the first non-European country to succeed in generating a modern business culture. Japan’s example was then emulated by some smaller Asian countries – South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, etc. Recently, the great country of China started to do it, and is succeeding impressively. Israel is doing it in the Middle East).
With our educated masses, we command a strong starting base for it. We were starting on it in the early 1960s, but we were pushed off course. It is not too late to start today. We must now take it fully and strongly in hand.
At this conference, we must give very concrete consideration to the operational question: How shall we go about it?

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LONG LIVE THE YORUBA NATION!
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One Response to “Oodua – Rise and Shine! – Speech to the Conference of Leaders of the Yoruba Nation – by Prof. Banji Akintoye”

  1. Samuel Ademola says:

    Much as this effort and energy used in this write up appears to be. The writer clearly demonstrated a myopic view of modern days events, and unable to come out clear on any on his point. It is absurd that this professor still feel the youth could be used as an instrument to attain a political gain or relevance. In fact, I stopped reading this article where this suppose elderly man wrote “Late Uncle Bola Ige……..murdered by PDP’s CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE”. I challenge the and ask the writer; Who murdered HON. OLAGBAJU? If this professor cannot answer the question, he should shut his mouth forever! For your information, HON OLAGBAJU was a PDP man representing one of the Local Government in Ile-Ife at the OSUN STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY, he was murdered in his house three days before BOLA IGE was murdered. Hon. Olagbaju death came first, the questions of his murder must be answered first!
    So the elderly are the only one licensed to kill? With this issue the writer destroyed whatever sense was in the entire writing.

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